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We’ve been talking about Carnevale for the past week. By now you may be wishing you were there, but missed your window to book the trip this year.
Well, if you can’t make it to one of the many spectacular events throughout Italy, celebrate your own Carnevale at home.
The Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi wrote, “You may have the universe if I may have Italy.”
With Valentine’s Day just weeks away and the inevitable inundation of red roses, chocolate boxes, and big romantic gestures, here at Modigliani, our hearts return to Italy.
What is it about Italy? What makes it such a romantic destination? Why does it move us in a way no other place can? How it transposes us to another time or how it somehow manages to turn us into gushing teenagers, smitten with our very first love. It’s as if there’s something in the air, or maybe in the wine. Whatever it is, it leaves an indelible mark that consistently makes this country one of the top destinations for romance.
To begin with, Italy is simply one of the most beautiful places to experience. From the architecture to the art, and in the food and wine, it inspires the heart and feeds the soul. With its evocative landscapes and impassioned people it stays true to the many stories unfolding in literature and on film. Whether you’re lost in a Shakespearean play or entranced by a Fellini film, Italy becomes the main character in any narrative.
With so many picturesque locations, refining the choices seems almost cruel. But the reality is, you simply can’t go wrong no matter where you go.
Venice is considered one of the more romantic locations in all of Italy. With its narrow streets, winding canals, and scenic bridges, it’s the perfect spot for love’s embrace. Take an evening gondola ride or get lost in the modest lanes, only to wind up in the Piazza San Marco every time. Surrounded by water, escape seems inconceivable. And then the romance of the moment captivates and you never want to leave.
And then there is Verona, best known for Romeo and Juliet, earning its nickname “City of Love”. It’s no surprise that the most visited attraction here is the Casa di Giulietta, or Juliet’s House, where you can see the famous balcony and imagine the star-crossed lovers exchanging verse and poetry. Nearby, there’s a small wall in a narrow alley where legend says if couples write their names and add them to the wall, Juliet will give them eternal love.
When in Rome, there are couples at every turn. Town squares are important for social exchange and you’ll always find lovers gathered at nearby fountains, like Trevi Fountain. Spend a few hours with your special someone gazing upon Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel in Vatican City. The enforced silence as you’re awe inspired demands quiet contemplation, but best shared with another. Get lost together as you walk the sprawling ruins of the Roman Forum and then on to the Pantheon where in the evening the subtle glow of the lights sets the mood.
In the city of Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance, you can get lost in art museums soaking up as much Botticelli, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, and da Vinci as your heart desires. Take in the city view from the top of the Duomo or gaze down the Arno River from the Ponte Vecchio Bridge. End your evening at a quiet café enjoying an espresso or sharing a carafe of wine over candlelight. The romance of Florence is undeniable.
If a more intimate experience is what you crave, try the Gulf of Poets, Golfo dei Poeti, made popular by the romantic poets such as Byron and Shelley. Tourists tend to stick to nearby Cinque Terre, which is less busy and more romantic at night, making this the perfect spot for privacy and amour.
The Amalfi Coast and Lake Como are always lovely options. Both have their share of sparkling waters and breathtaking views. And both are top destinations for honeymooners of all ages.
No matter which location you select, bustling city or countryside village, every nook and cranny seems to evoke the ambience of romance. It never feels out of place or unwanted, and it always feels as essential as breath. Ask any Italian and they’ll probably agree and tell you that life without love has no reason for breath – it is that necessary. Or maybe they’ll say that romance is breathing.
Italians are serious about having a good life, but do not take life too seriously. They believe in living the best they possibly can, which for them means embracing those things that make them most happy. Meals are, by design, long and social. Food is not simply for fuel but instead a sensual experience, where every bite is to be tasted and enjoyed. Wine is not for intoxication but for the palette and pairing with food, heightening the experience. Art is to be shared, with as many as possible as often as possible. Architecture is to be preserved so that generations to come can live amongst the beauty and history, embracing their past, while still creating and innovating for the future.
If at home or lost abroad, we hope you find a little romance this Valentine’s Day. There’s no need to dine out – cook a great meal together at home. Italians even shop together first, extending their romantic experience. Light some candles, put on some music, embrace the moment, and enjoy the company of the one you love.
It’s finally December and the spirit of the holiday season is getting in to full swing here in the U.S. For most of us, Thanksgiving officially kicks off the festivities, and for some, it even begins as early as Halloween. But no matter when your family traditionally welcomes the season, it’s a magical and wondrous time for the little ones in our lives.
Ask anyone you know and they’ll probably be able to spout out one tradition that their family has had or continues during the holiday season. While the origins of this special time are based on religious and spiritual beliefs, many traditions celebrated are born from families creating memories in their own way and then sustained for years to come. It’s something that brings us together in familiarity and comfort.
Italians also understand this and base many of their traditions on bringing family together and creating a meaningful experience their children will remember and share for the rest of their lives. They also celebrate within their own cultural timeline.
Italians may begin their winter holiday a little later than us, but they also extend the celebration well into January, creating massive excitement and extended anticipation for kids across the country.
The season typically begins on December 8 with the Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception. This is a national holiday with significant importance to the Roman Catholic Church, and also the official day when most put up their holiday decorations and Christmas trees. It’s a spectacle to behold with sights, sounds, and smells to heighten the senses of holiday revelers young and old.
In the Novena, or eight days before Christmas, streets are filled with carolers singing traditional songs. In Rome and other locations, you will see the zampognari or bagpipe players who travel from the nearby Abruzzi Mountains to play throughout the streets for the local children. At the same time, piazzas across Italy are enveloped with beautiful lights and decorations, including artisanal handmade presepi, or nativity scenes. You’d be hard pressed not to find one in any city or town.
Other Italian traditions include skipping meat on Christmas Eve as a way to purify their bodies for Christmas Day, often replaced with grand feasts and multiple courses of beautiful seafood instead. While many end the day with Midnight Mass, there are also those brave ones who ski down the Dolomites at the strike of midnight carrying torches to welcome Christmas – an incredible sight to behold.
Christmas Day of course is filled with large meals, loads of family and friends, and glorious Italian foods, including the traditional dessert of panettone, a sweet bread loaf filled with candied fruit and raisins that children love.
The feasting and celebration continues into the New Year, but comes to a crescendo January 6, the twelfth day of Christmas and the Day of the Epiphany.
The night before, large meals are once again shared with family and friends to mark the end of the season, and La Befana, a witch who flies on her broom and brings good children treats and bad children coal, delivers her gifts and goodies.
We delight in and appreciate all of the holiday traditions of Italy and hope that all of our followers are able to continue their own family traditions, or start some new ones. Focusing ideas and activities around the children in our lives is a great place to start, and often means these traditions are carried forward for generations to come.
We’d like to help by offering tips and ideas for the table – more specifically, the children’s table.
Rather than setting up a small card table or relegating the little ones to a counter with stools, make their meal memorable by creating something colorful and unique to mark the occasion. Kids notice these things and love when they are singled out with something special just for them. And if you turn it into a tradition, they have something to look forward to each year.
Our children’s table shown here uses our bright and cheerful POP collection. Use these pieces as a backdrop for anything you’d want to add to make it even more festive for the kids. Involving them as much as possible in the party and the preparation makes it special for everyone!
Consider a few of these ideas to get your creativity flowing and to start some new family traditions.
- Let kids create an ornament or other fun craft to designate their spot at the table.
- Make a gingerbread house centerpiece and plan to decorate it together earlier in the day.
- Ask each child to bring a dozen of their favorite decorated Christmas cookies for the whole family to enjoy.
- Provide a special holiday dish just for them to have at their table. Maybe a frozen cranberry reindeer or Christmas tree crudité.
- Provide an age appropriate table game like holiday trivia questions with a prize for the most correct answers, Christmas bingo, I Spy, or place a number under a plate later to be drawn for a prize. You could even fill a large clear vessel with candy and each child guesses the amount inside. When the meal is over they can count the contents and closest to the number wins a prize.
- Lay out crayons or markers and a butcher paper tablecloth for creative drawings or thoughtful messages throughout the meal.
- Place several disposable or digital cameras at the table and let the kids get creative with special shots from their point of view. Share the images in the coming days so everyone has something to look forward to.
- Place pens and paper on the table and have each child write a few sentences that later get compiled into one story. Share the story with the family after dinner. Have them get creative and as silly as they like, these can be the best stories.
- Share with us your favorites. What does your family do for the holidays? Do they plan something special just for the kids? Let us know your favorite traditions.
No matter what you have planned this season, we hope you all are lucky enough to spend just a small bit of time seeing the holidays through the eyes of a child and creating new traditions and memories for years to come. The pure joy, laughter, and whimsy children evoke is the most simple yet poignant way we can think to embrace and celebrate the season.
For the fourth and final entry to our fall lifestyle series, let’s end with the cocktail hour.
Having guests over on a crisp fall evening can be the perfect festive occasion. And you don’t always have to entertain by preparing a large meal. Sometimes inviting friends for a cocktail is the best way to do some stress-free entertaining during a busy holiday season.
To set the scene, a bouquet of colorful fall tulips in our Zucca pitcher and a decanter from our Selezione collection full of our famous Rosemarino cocktail are just the ambience needed for a pre-dinner happy hour. Pair them with a cheese or charcuterie appetizer served on our Legna olive wood servers, turn on some music, and you have the ideal atmosphere for entertaining your holiday guests.
- Make rosemary simple syrup by combining 1 cup of sugar, 1 cup of water, and some sprigs of rosemary in a saucepan and place on a low simmer until well combined.
- Place 2 ounces of bourbon, 2 dashes of orange bitters, and 2 teaspoons of simple syrup in a shaker and blend well.
- Pour the mixture into your Selezione decanter and serve over ice with a sprig of rosemary for decoration.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our Fall Entertaining Series and that you’ve been inspired to try some of these ideas yourself. Remember, keep it simple, mix and match, and let the natural beauty of the dinnerware and delicious food be the perfect backdrop for what really matters most; precious time with family and friends.
As we continue our series, let’s turn to our attention to creating an elegant serving display.
First, we are very excited about the inclusion of our new olive wood collection called Legna. These rich and elegant pieces are durable, come in a variety of sizes, and bring more of that natural element to any table.
All of our products function quite well for prepping, but they’re also attractive enough to go straight to the table for serving appetizers or incorporating into a buffet. And the Legna collection is no exception – they are perfect for serving your guests. Below, we’ve layered them with crisp linens on our natural wood table to serve parmagiano reggiano and mozzarella cheeses, hand picked apples, and pane carasau – thin, crispy, twice baked crackers. The addition of the rosemary sprig provides just enough texture and a whimsical accent of greenery. Again, you have a neutral backdrop that’s warm and elegant contrasting with the color and texture of your food resulting in a beautiful and inviting display.
Our ceramic centerpieces also work well for many purposes, including as a serving bowl for salads as we’ve used ours below. You can also use them as a place to put a hardy mum surrounded by gourds or greenery, to hold your favorite seasonal fruits, or you can partner them with the olive wood boards to serve breads and crackers. The possibilities are endless. The beauty of the piece with its swooping handles, unique shape, and artisan hand painting requires only simple solutions for its contents.
To round out your serving needs, the dual-section of our antipasto dish is used here for additions to the salad, but we’ve also used ours for olives and pits, nuts, candies, and condiments. Its versatility makes for a wonderful gift that will be used again and again.
Bringing these pieces together and layering them with beautiful linens and textures from nature places the attention on the food while still providing a festive backdrop for your holiday entertaining.
In the second entry of our lifestyle series, we worked with a few ideas on place settings. We took the idea of incorporating nature and textures and mixed it with flatware adding some fun to the place card concept.
We loved the idea of weaving herbs and floral into the tablescape as a whole. As you can see from the first photo, we took a single sprig of rosemary and the simple yet beautiful Michelangelo flatware and tied them together with a rich velvet ribbon, setting them on top of a crisp, off-white linen napkin.
It’s easy and elegant and also provides your dinner guests with a wonderful scent of rosemary.
As shown above and for the purposes of our photo shoot, we chose to keep the beauty of the wood table as the base instead of displaying a Biancheria ivory placemat in full. But as you build your own tablescape, the placemat provides an elegant backdrop to your favorite dinner pieces.
As you build out the rest of your place setting, use natural elements mixed with different pieces to layer your table. As you can see below, the table setting we chose includes a dahlia and some eucalyptus in a small glass votive. We then used the napkins from our Biancheria Green collection and layered them in a gentle roll mimicking the curved stems on our Villa d’Este amber glassware.
Again, the focus is on elegant yet simple beauty through the mixing and layering of natural textures and patterns.
A guest post by Tara Jantzen
This month is more than half over and many of us in the U.S. are thinking about back-to-school and the end of our summer vacations. While we’re exhausted from shuttling the kids around to every summer activity or outing, and now dreading the inevitable workweek, most Italians have closed up shop and are still at the beach or in the mountains for the entire month of August. They are ready for dolce far niente, or, the sweetness of doing nothing.
On August 15, Italians celebrated Ferragosto, a public holiday coinciding with the religious celebration of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It’s marked across the country with fireworks displays and processions of locals carrying statues of Mary. It’s also a period of relaxation and completely disconnecting from work life. It means spending time with family and friends, soaking up sunshine, enjoying great food and wine, and doing pretty much anything other than work.
This is what they call ferie, or holiday.
Italians have a very different perspective on work and holidays than we seem to have in the U.S. Don’t get me wrong, we usually intend on being completely offline and fully engaged in the leisurely life. But inevitably, we grab for the smartphone or open up the laptop. The Italians are different—they have this holiday thing down to an art form.
First, you’ll likely hear most Europeans say they’re “going on holiday,” whereas Americans are “on vacation.” The word vacation originated in the U.S. with the affluent as they ‘vacated’ their estate homes for other extravagant locations—a term that never quite caught on in other countries.
Secondly, in Italy work fits around social and family life, not vice versa. They experience everything quite fully, including their work, but they separate the two much more easily and happily than Americans. You’ll never hear of Italians forgoing vacation days like we heroically do in the west. They relish in their personal time and don’t take it for granted even for a second. They live in the moment, and they live passionately.
And you certainly won’t hear of them spending their holidays attending cooking classes or volunteering for a social cause. They take rest and relaxation quite seriously, and they almost always do it with their extended families in tow.
Spending time with the family, la famiglia, is extremely important to the Italian culture, and it goes well beyond the nucleus members of parents and children. Italian families are consistently inclusive of the entire extended network—grandparents, cousins, in-laws, grandkids, you name it. The children often continue living with their parents well into their twenties and even thirties, until they themselves are married. But they are raised to remain close into adulthood, integrating their future families into the larger group, and so on. They take great care of each other and thoroughly enjoy spending time together. It is the Italian way.
Italians aren’t big on planning every moment of their holiday in advance like the rest of us. They tend to rise late and mull the day’s plan over an espresso. Always accommodating these social creatures, they stay as a group and plan accordingly.
And they often plan around the simple pleasures of food and wine. You’ll often find large families gathered on the beaches dining in the local cafes or picnicking together in the mountains—just as they would at their home tables—replicating the large meals carefully and lovingly prepared in mother’s kitchen.
Not veering from tradition in any way, they break for a lengthy lunch around 1-2:30 pm, and an even longer dinnertime anywhere between 7:30 and 10 pm. These extended meals are not just to feed the body, but more importantly, they are social rituals—rituals where they also view alcohol as an important accompaniment to meals rather than inebriation and vacation escape.
If you are lucky enough to holiday in Italy and you happen upon one of these carefree clans, you can’t help but be struck by the pure ease with which they live, laugh, and love together. It’s hard not to be just a bit envious of them. They embrace life and never resist. They lift it up and live within it. It is the epitome of la grande vita!
Tara Jantzen is a freelance writer living in Southern California. Throughout her extensive career she has traveled all over the world, but considers Italy her favorite destination. She’s spent many trips learning first-hand about food, cooking, olive oil, wine, and the spirit of the Italian lifestyle. She has also completed the WSET Level 2 Award in Wine and Spirits and hopes to continue her wine education with Level 3 in the near future.